Soft skills play a central role in your career development because these are the qualities that make you who you are as a person and a professional. In fact, the English Oxford Living Dictionaries defines soft skills as the ‘personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people’. These skills are what enable you to work successfully with others, and perform well in your job and working environment. Getting to know which of them are the most important to your career is crucial because it is the first step to understanding how you can develop your abilities and become better at what you do.
So, let’s find out what these are.
1. Communication Skills
Communications skills come first on the list because they are core competencies that you need to start working on as early as possible, especially when you are just starting out in your career. Communication refers to speaking, active listening, persuading and negotiating, speaking clearly, conveying a message or an idea effectively, giving and accepting criticism, and public speaking (problems many people struggle with). Despite the problems, they are essential for building and maintaining effective relationships with other people. If you can’t communicate well with other people, you are going to struggle a lot to find a career - since this is often the first thing employers look for in interviews - let alone progress in it.
The ability to work with other people as a group is essential in the workplace because in nearly every job, you are going to have to work as part of a team in one way or another. Whether you are working on a group project, or simply participate in a meeting, you will need to be a team player, show respect to others, and have the willingness to work towards achieving a common goal. Teamwork means contributing your ideas effectively, being responsible and assertive, accepting criticism and giving constructive feedback to others.
3. Time Management
Time management first becomes important when you have deadlines to work on and projects you need to finish while still at university. But, it is a skill that you will need throughout your career because it’s an ability that helps you stay professional. It allows you to work under pressure and also mange anxiety and stress. Ensure that you can divide your time efficiently, you are always on time, and schedule your time effectively. This should help you to complete the work that needs to be finished every day.
4. Decision Making
The ability to make good decisions quickly is necessary to every employer. Effective decision making is all about using your intuition and logical reasoning to choose a possible course of action out of the options you are presented with. Decision making also refers to judging a situation correctly, making conclusions and coming up with a practical solution to a problem. This also involves your ability to think on your feet because it’s a great advantage to have especially in the workplace where it can get you promoted faster and easier.
Possessing the ability to adjust to changing environments is another great asset in today’s job market. Throughout your career you might need to change jobs multiple of times, and you may find yourself working for employers who work differently, in varied work settings and dissimilar rules. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances quickly is important to employers and it shows that you are comfortable with diversity.
6. Conflict Resolution
How you handle difficult situations is an ability that is greatly appreciated in the workplace. Since you are likely to interact with many people day-in day out, including your coworkers and customers, you may find yourself involved in a situation where you have to deal with a demanding customer, a colleague who isn’t willing to cooperate with you or the rest of the team, or colleagues having a disagreement. Being able to resolve issues quickly and easy, and with no harm done, can definitely work to your advantage. Everyone hates conflict so if you can keep the peace even if you have to take the ultimate step of firing someone it will be an instant sign that you are management material.
Leadership is defined as the ability to take initiative whenever possible. It’s the action of leading a group of people, delegating duties, managing others and giving directions for the effective operation of a business, or a specific department within a business. Even though you may not be in a position where you have the lead e.g. being a manager, leadership on its own shows your willingness to take control of a situation, to guide and support your colleagues effectively.
Self-motivation is the personal drive to achieve your goals, to create new opportunities and the desire to improve yourself. Without this kind of determination there is little you can do in your career because this is what can make you successful. The willingness to work and go the extra mile is particularly important and it’s found in people who are active volunteers and know how to take on more responsibilities. Employers prefer to hire self-motivated individuals and they specify that in their job adverts.
9. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is amongst the most important soft skills. The ability to control yourself, to show empathy, understand yourself and others is crucial to carrying out your job effectively. Not only does this help you handle interpersonal relationships and judge a situation effectively, it can also help to increase your problem-solving skills and the ability to cope with situations where there might be personal or sensitive issues involved in the process. The more friendly and relatable you can be in the office the more likely you are to be promoted and it will also increase your networking efforts.
Creativity is the force that drives change and every modern professional should work on it. The ability to come up with creative and practical solutions can save time and lots of effort and employers want creative people to work in their team. Creativity skills refer to thinking out of the box, trying out alternative methods of working and lots of experimentation. Being creative means that you are a practical human being, and you can make even the most complex thing look easy. Creativity is definitely one of the most important skills of the future and it’s wise to invest in it. It is important to emphasise that it is not just limited to creative industries as it will help every industry to evolve and become more efficient.
Since success is a never-ending journey, it becomes essential to improve yourself and the best way to do this is to work on your soft skills. However, doing so requires lots of trial and error. This reinforces the concept of lifelong learning which supports the idea that learning doesn’t happen in a specific place, or time rather throughout your lifetime.
Hopefully, this article has helped you identify what you need to work on and given you a few pointers about where you need to start from.
Do you know any other soft skills that should have been added on the list? Let us know in the comments section below…